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Tom Hayden's Thug Love By:
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Extreme leftists have always had a perverse admiration for thugs. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Arafat and countless African despots never lacked for moral support and love notes in the form of editorials and doctoral dissertations from American apologists, fellow travelers and useful idiots. You’d think that after thirty years of proclaiming solidarity with every tyrant of the 20th century, and watching those regimes implode like a nasty Hollywood marriage, radical leftists would have gotten a clue that maybe the only visible products of command and control economies were famine, glow-in-the-dark nuclear reactors and gulags.

Tom Hayden has recently lowered his sights somewhat in his newly released book about urban gangs, Street Wars. In place of solidarity with the big international thugs, he’s found domestic ones to waggle in our faces.

In his own words, “This book is about what I call inner-city peacemakers. Instead of fighting each other, they could fight the power aggressively but nonviolently.” That Hayden can still utter a phrase like “fight the power” without irony sounds like he took the Wayback Machine to the 60s, a period he clearly wants to revisit as some kind of Mr. Peabody retro radical. For all I know, he may still be trying to break into the Dean’s office and give the school back “to the people."

Hayden’s basic premise in Street Wars is that merely attacking the problem of street gangs with law enforcement hasn’t worked. There’s hardly anyone familiar with this huge social problem that doesn’t agree with him, including every cop in the country.

Where Hayden parts company with rational thinkers is his claim that the spread of violent street gangs is a result of the failure of the radical movements of the 1960s, the Viet Nam war, poverty, the triumph of neo-conservatism, crooked cops who actually want to increase gang violence to justify paramilitary measures and, that catch-all bugaboo entree of the month at the Anarchist all-you-can-eat buffet -- globalization.

Hayden’s proposed solution is to create a government program that would identify gang leaders and employ them as “detached workers” to go out into the neighborhoods and act a peacemakers and truce brokers. In his words, “those responsible for the violence should be the ones to end it.” In his vision, this use-a-gangster to cure-a-gangster approach would be accompanied by public sector jobs for gang members, guaranteed living wages for any gangster who promises to go straight, and building schools that would educate at-risk youth about their “cultural heritage” and teach them how to transform the local street gang into a political force.

The evidence to prove his various theses is thin. In some cases, it’s completely fabricated or distorted beyond recognition. He cherry picks his statistics while ignoring facts that undermine his argument. In many instances, he does such a good job of undermining and contradicting himself that you wonder if one of his editors wasn’t actually working for The Man.

For instance, he states that slapping RICO indictments on street gangs doesn’t work. The RICO statutes were created to bust up organized crime families like the Italian Mafia. He claims that street gangs are “disorganized crime” so RICO is a waste of time. His quote, “If gangs are run at all, they are only loosely managed by an ever-changing politburo or informal board of directors that is fluid and unstable.” If this is true, then who are his proposed truce brokers going to deal with? If there are no gang leaders, whom do you negotiate with to call a cease-fire between warring gangs?

Then contradicting himself again, he credits Mexican Mafia leaders like Ernest “Chuco” Castro with mandating an end to drive-by shootings.

The entire Chuco Castro episode in Street Wars is a perfect illustration of Hayden’s inability to describe events without distorting them. Castro was a made member of the Mexican Mafia (the Eme) who was released after serving almost half his life in prison. Before leaving prison, Castro and other Eme members on the street were instructed by the Big Homies still behind bars to organize all Hispanic Southern California street gangs under the Eme flag. It was a bold and very public policy initiative of vertical integration.

In 1993 Castro organized a number of large gatherings of Hispanic gangs to hear the word of the Eme. And the word was, “no more drive-bys.” From that day on, all disputes were to be settled by face-to-face assassinations. That was to reduce the collateral damage of stray bullets killing innocents and keep the heat off gangs. Hayden covers this in the book. What he doesn’t mention were the other items on Castro’s agenda. Namely, from that day on, all Hispanic gangs had to swear allegiance to the Eme and call themselves Surenos. And most importantly, all Sureno gangs had to pay street taxes, or tribute, to the Eme shot callers in their neighborhoods under penalty of death. Hayden fails to mention these last two items.

Castro had also ordered the MS (the Mara Salvatrucha a Salvadoran street gang), to make an immediate tax payment of $5000 in order to lift the “greenlight” (basically a fatwa) against all MS members. This is how Hayden describes it. “Lifting the greenlight meant that the first tentative ‘moment of inclusion’ (his quote) was allowed by Mexican gangs towards their rivals among Salvadoran immigrants in places like Pico-Union.”

You have to wonder about the thickness of Hayden’s rose-colored glasses when he can characterize straight-up extortion as a moment of inclusion? The word was, pay up or your whole gang dies. If somebody sticks a gun in your face and says give me money or I shoot, do you suddenly feel all warm and fuzzy about being “included” in the moment?

But Hayden persists. He says of Castro’s meetings, “The message of the day was to stop the violence.” But a few sentences later on the same page he says, “If there was business to take car of, it would follow the older tradition of one-on-one battles.” So was the edict to stop the violence or just redirect it? Was it a cease-fire or just new rules of engagement? Hayden seems to want it both ways.

A month after one of Castro’s policy meetings, he was arrested for parole violations. As a result, he flipped and became an FBI informant. This is how Hayden describes Castro’s arrest. “. . . police raided Chuco’s Alhambra home, shovels in hand, and dug up guns buried beneath the place. Perhaps the guns were his, perhaps not, but Chuco was in big trouble. . . “

Hayden commits three major sins in this sentence alone. Typical of the entire book, it is worth explaining. One is the sin of omission. In addition to the guns (including a full-auto MAC 10), cops found drugs, $10,000 in cash and numerous documents including hit lists and written orders from the Big Homies still in prison. The second is the sin of lying. The cops didn’t have shovels. They didn’t need them. The guns, cash, drugs and documents were stored in a cement-lined bunker under a trap door in Chuco’s bedroom closet. The third sin is that of calumny. Hayden implies that the guns were maybe planted there. Smearing cops is a favorite sport of the Left. I know some of the cops who served that search warrant. I’ve got hours of taped interviews with them. I’ve seen the raid photos and copies of the property report. It’s public information. Hayden can view them at his leisure by filling out a request form in room G8 of the Federal Courthouse in downtown L.A. Smearing cops with no evidence is just plain sleazy.

The craziest idea in Street Wars is Hayden’s proposition that public money should be spent to employ reformed gangsters to deter future gangsters from joining gangs. This is not a new idea. It’s been tried in the past and it has failed miserably. The Black Panthers made a show of how politicized gangsters can be a force for good. And we know how that went. But there are others.

The Gangster Disciples and Blackstone Rangers, two Chicago gangs, were given a million dollars of government money to initiate a truce and create job training programs. They were also allowed to patrol the local high schools to keep the peace. These “hall monitors” kept the “peace” by cracking heads and selling drugs right on school property. Jeff Fort, the Blackstone leader used some of that government money to buy more guns and drugs and consolidate his power on the street. He got such a swelled head from being publicly acknowledged as a “leader” by people of Hayden’s political persuasion, that he traveled to Lybia where Qaddafi made Fort a gift of a surface to air missile. No doubt to make kids behave in study hall.

In Los Angeles, an idealistic young woman named Ellen Delia was given public funds to employ paroled felons as gang intervention counselors and run half-way houses. One of the ex-convicts she employed was her husband Michael. Project Get Going, as the program was called, was quickly infiltrated by Mexican Mafia operators who sold drugs out of the half way house and used government-provided cars to make drug deliveries. When she discovered the infiltration, she was executed in Sacramento where it’s assumed she was on her way to expose the operation to lawmakers. Her husband and others were eventually prosecuted and convicted for her murder as well as that of a special assistant to then California State Senator Alex Garcia.

Putting felons on the government payroll to deter other felons is asking for trouble, but Hayden sees no downside to it. In fact, it legitimizes gangsterism and sends a message to young wannabe gangsters that you can play with fire and not get burned. You can indulge in illegal behavior and then when you get tired of it or facing a lot of hard time, the government is right there to give you a job to keep the next generation from doing what you just did. Instead of breaking the cycle of gangs and violence, it merely underwrites it and provides a government agency to ensure its existence. It’s the unintended consequence writ large.

Hayden doesn’t trust cops, sees imperialist conspiracies under every bed, thinks that it’s okay to bust up the local Starbuck’s as a form of “direct democracy,” and doesn’t have nice things to say even about liberals. About the only people Hayden doesn’t accuse of ulterior, selfish or self-aggrandizing motives are felons, drug dealers and self-admitted gunslingers. In his world, giving cops and the criminal justice system more resources just creates more oppression and crime. But giving tax dollars directly to gangsters will make them stop committing crimes. That’s called extortion.

Is there any value at all to using ex-gangsters as prevention counselors? There may be. And it’s worth exploring. But not by gambling with public funds. If the likes of George Soros, Bill Gates and Ted Turner find value in it, they’re welcome to sink as much money as they want into such programs. In other words, private funding. If it works, we’re all the better for it. If it doesn’t, it won’t require senate hearings to pull the plug.

Street Wars is a fuzzy-minded mess that even an LA Times book reviewer found hard to swallow. It would literally take an entire book to set right the falsehoods, fabrications, weird leaps of logic and bone-headed assertions that Tom Hayden inflicts on his unsuspecting readers. Kids are dying by the thousands every year from gang violence. And aside from jargon-crippled sociological tracts written by academics who never get closer to the streets than cell phone range, there’s precious little written about the subject. It’s hard to tell if Hayden really wants to solve the problem or is finding every way possible to make sure it never goes away.




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